Taxon Expeditions: Where you can be Darwin too

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Stork-billed Kingfisher (Photo credit: K Hendriks)
Stork-billed Kingfisher (Photo credit: K Hendriks)

Maliau Basin Conservation Area on Borneo, affectionately known as “Sabah’s Lost World” is one of the few remaining untouched wilderness areas in the world. With over 290 bird species of which 26% are threatened or near-threatened according to IUCN, Maliau has become a global hotspot for the conservation of bird biodiversity. Species that may be seen here include all 8 species of hornbills found on Borneo, Bornean Bristlehead, Blue-headed Pitta, Black-headed Pitta, and Bulwer’s Pheasant. Besides outstanding bird diversity, MBCA hosts several rare mammals and numerous species of invertebrates among which new species are yet to be discovered.

A new organisation, Taxon Expeditions, organises expeditions for non-biologists to Maliau. But unlike other ecotourism outfits, the participants are guided by international experts through all the steps of real scientific research. Together, they discover, name, and publish completely new species of wild animals.

Rhinoceros (Photo credit: K Hendriks)
Rhinoceros Hornbill (Photo credit: K Hendriks)

During a 10-day stay at a field study centre in the heart of Borneo’s rainforest, participants receive a solid tropical biology training from seasoned field biologists. Then, they explore the forest to look for tiny animals like snails and beetles. The collected samples are then mounted, photographed, databased, DNA-sequenced, and digitized and deposited in the Borneensis Collection of Universiti Malaysia Sabah. There, they become part of a permanent reference collection for Borneo-based biodiversity conservationists and scientists.

Blue-eared Kingfisher (Photo credit: K Hendriks)
Blue-eared Kingfisher (Photo credit: K Hendriks)

This way, participants go home with the unique experience of having discovered and named new species of wildlife themselves, and to have contributed to the documentation of Borneo’s threatened biodiversity. Over time, we will build a resource for other researchers who are working throughout Borneo to understand the impact of deforestation but are often hampered by the lack of online databases of organisms tinier than birds and mammals.

Taxon Expeditions
Leiden, The Netherlands
4th July 2017

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behavior through photography and videography to a wider audience.

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